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Beckman under fire for insult to Black parents

caines | 4/26/2012, 5 a.m.

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Protestors angered by fire captains racist remarks aimed at Blacks

Miami-Dade County Fire Captain Brian Beckmann is finding the heat at County Hall can be just as hot as any fire in the field. Beckmann, who posted a series of racist rantings about welfare dependent excuses for parents and then added sarcastic comments about their hooded urban youth on his Facebook page [they have since been removed], also took aim at special prosecutor Angela Corey. Corey is leading the State's criminal case against George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Miami teen Trayvon Martin. Beckmann's post came while he was off duty. Nonetheless, public outcry demanding his termination continues to build. Last Wednesday, five predominantly-Black union and community-based organizations, as well as community activists and leaders came together to let the county mayor, commissioners and fire department top officials know that Beckmann's insults should not be tolerated. [A second protest was held on Monday; both took place in front of the Stephen P. Clarke Government Center in downtown Miami]. Speakers included: Gregory Rollins, representing the Federation of Black Employees and Progressive Firefighters Association; Walter Clark, the Special Consultant for African-American Government Employees (S.C.A.A.G.E.) ; and P.U.L.S.E. They are asking that immediate action be taken against Beckman. Armed with copies of the Miami-Dade County's own rules that govern the dismissal, demotion or suspension of employees, the group, along with former City of Miami Commissioner Richard Dunn II, made several demands including: a call for disciplinary actions against Beckmann; a formal apology; training for the fire departments command staff via the Martin Luther King Institute for Nonviolence; and a meeting with County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commission Chairman Joe Martinez within the next 10 days. Rollins says that Beckmans comments took the paint brush of ignorance and depicted parents of the African Diaspora as failures while also using other more derogatory terms. County Commissioner Barbara Jordan sent a memo to Gimenez stating that she was relieved to hear that an investigation had begun into Beckmann's statements. "His racially-charged rants were tasteless, ignorant and offensive to the very people he has sworn to serve." While I am a believer in free speech, as public servants we must be held to a higher standard." Jordan says she hopes the investigation will include a review of Beckmann's personnel record and any prior actions he may have taken on employees where race may have been a factor. But a defiant Beckmann wrote, "I am a private citizen and have the same rights to freely express an opinion on any subject that anyone else does." Many at the protest also questioned whether Beckmann's personal remarks, despite his not being on duty at the time he posted them, are protected by the First Amendment that guarantees his constitutional right to freely express his opinion without fear of governmental reprisal. In other words, does free speech grant an employee the right to insult and denigrate his employer and those who in essence, pay his salary? By Gregory W. Wrightg.w.wright@hotmail.com